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Sept. 16. Day five, Saturday. Thirty-one winch launches and about half-as-many auto launches make the news today. Both operations found a way to share the main runway as needed, showing their best moves throughout the day. Just the best!

And yes, it was a soaring day for those who chose to do so. The first launches took off by 18:00 with everyone returning for the day. Best guess had three PW-5's soaring with the migrating hawks, and pelicans heading south with a northerly wind. Cloud bases were above 6k msl, honest clouds for September, and an OD sky staying well north and west of the Albert Lea airspace.

Sept. 15. Day four, Friday. Rain fell this morning just as the weather forecasters had predicted. So, we attended a ground school class on the basics of auto-tow launches. During the afternoon, rain passed to the east, the cloud bases ascended just enough for wind and auto-tow launches from mid-afternoon until just before sunset. Even on a rainy, cloudy day, these crews pressed on to about 16 ground launches for the day.

But then, the other mode of fun begins after all the equipment is put away. Stories, even embellished stories begin for the rest of the evening with broad smiles, laughter, old and new friends, and beverages for the rest of the evening as a bring-your-own-chair-with-snacks get together commences on the apron near the RV's. So special.


Sept. 14. Day three, Thursday at the Albert Lea Regatta. Forty-two, yep forty-two ground launches - some as auto-launch to over 700' agl and the others by the winch upto 2,000' agl. And then, eight launches by aero-tow parallel to but on the other side of the airport. This was a busy airport and the right amount of surface wind made the ground launches look great! Pilots taking aero-tow launches had the added benefit of flying to cloud base near 9,500' msl on a great fall soaring day with a few flying as far as 200k across southern Minnesota  and northern Iowa. Rain passes through this area tomorrow, but the weather guessing models suggest a high pressure ridge with gentle winds for the remaining days of the regatta.

Sept. 13. Day two, Wednesday at the Albert Lea Regatta. Flight instruction, winch launching,auto -tow launching, and aero-tows all made for a great and diverse day. The Minnesota Soaring Club providend flight instruction to two of its members for the purpose of becoming familiar with a new airport and its asphalt runways. Don Ingraham and his crew provided another day of winch launching over a nearly full schedule day for those interested and adventorous pilots. The tow pilots had a great time, launching each other with a powerful Denali Scout while exploring the sky and any thermals in a PW-5. 

And finally, as stated earlier, auto-launching began with earnest at the end of the afternoon. The first tows only attained 650' or so, but once the crew found the right tow speed, heights reached well over 700'. More reports about the thrill of winch and auto-tow launches will follow, but certainly the excitement is novel to us who've flown so many aero-tows.

Sept. 12. Day one, Tuesday, at the Albert Lea Regatta. Don Ingraham with Cross Country Soaring flew 20-winch launches with nearly as many scheduled for each day over the rest of the week. For today, the MSC instructors will fly with club students, and renew their skills for auto-launching.


Tuesday’s weather was forecasted and proven great for soaring after a cold front passed through earlier in the day, allowing this report by pilots from the Red Wing Soaring Association to their membership.


“I thought I would give you some update from Albert Lea! Today was the first day of glider operations! We rigged the Grob yesterday and aerotowed it today (1 hour 43 minutes) and Steve Kennedy flew his glider for over 2 hours. It was a very nice day with thermals up to 6,500’! Don Ingraham was winch launching his glider all day reaching tow altitudes over 2,000’ in less than 40 seconds!! I’m scheduled for an hour of winch training tomorrow! Even if you don’t take a winch launch its amazing to watch!! If you plan on coming down, please contact me! We post instructions on the door of the terminal building with contact methods as well.

The glider pilot camaraderie is amazing down here. Make time to experience it!!” by Paul C.


Finally, my drive south had high and long cloud streets stretching to the west – the kinda streets that make a near perfect soaring day.


Leon Z.


Aug. 23 - Don Ingraham, owner-operator of Cross Country Soaring at Faribault municipal airport, is bringing his 260 HP winch to the Albert Lea Regatta, along with the small team needed to operate it. He is also bringing his Grob 103 two-seater glider and will provide dual-instruction winch launch training in his Grob 103 for $60 per launch. That $60 fee is all inclusive: Grob 103 glider rental, CFI-G dual instruction from Don Ingraham, logged in your pilot logbook, and launch fee. You get the launch, release, free flight after release, and approach and landing practice at KAEL, all for $60 per flight.

A powerful winch with 5,000 feet of rope, combined with the 5,000 foot long runway 17-35 at KAEL, means that the range of release altitudes from a winch launch is 1,500'  to 2,000' AGL. Release height achieved is partially dependent upon weather: If headwind is present at launch, release altitudes go UP, not down! Headwinds are an ally, in the winch launch game.

If you have never experienced a winch launch, let me prepare you a little bit: From a standing start, it takes around 40 seconds to get to release altitude (ranging from 1,500' AGL to 2,000' AGL!). Peak rate of climb is approximately 4,000 feet per minute! After a steep climb, the glider levels off, and at the release point, the towline automatically back-releases from the Tost CG towhook. With tension off the towline after release from the glider, the drogue parachute installed near the glider end of the towline inflates (to provide drag on the towline) as the winch operator retrieves the towline by goosing the throttle and winding up nearly a mile of line of the big steel drum on the winch. That done, the mile of line is towed down to the downwind end of the runway for the next launch, un-spooling from the steel drum as it does so. The glider lands, stages, and we do it again. And again!

I like winch launching as much as I like potato chips, and I can never eat just one! Stay tuned for details as to how to reserve training slots via winch launch with Don Ingraham and his Grob at the Albert Lea Regatta!  - Bob Wander. 

Aug. 27 - Call Don at 612-730-390five or visit his website,, to schedule your winch flights.

Aug. 29 - We'll have autotow launches and winch launches available at the Albert Lea Regatta. What's autotow launch like? What's winch launch like? How does it work? Learn more at the youtube video link below. It's about 7 minutes long. If you want to see the GoPro wingtip camera view of the takeoff roll, rotation, climbout, towline release, and the subsequent pattern, and landing, start at 2 minutes 40 seconds into the video. The Grob two-seater is very similar to our ASK21 gliders. Note the use of the glider's CG hook, rather than the nose/chin hook that we employ for aerotow.


Sept. 4Our friend and neighbor Dr. Dan Johnson, of Menomonie, WI, authored a comprehensive web page describing ground launching his club's Blanik L-13 two-seat sailplane via auto-tow. It's online and free to view. 7 chapters-simply click on the chapter titles to open each chapter. See the button above or copy and paste URL:


Sept. 4 - See CCSA button above for brief text remarks and a home-made video of day one of Central California Soaring Association's auto-tow clinic at Avenal, CA in February 2022.

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